New Hampshire Football Report

Dartmouth extends streak

NEW YORK, N.Y. — After holding a 7-6 lead at halftime, the 24th-ranked Dartmouth Big Green pulled away in the second half to defeat host Columbia, 28-12, in the Lions’ homecoming game on Saturday afternoon at Wien Stadium.

Dartmouth (6-0, 3-0) earned its ninth straight victory dating back to last season, the third longest streak in the FCS, as the Big Green ran for 250 yards and completed 11-of-12 passes to fend off injury-riddled Columbia (3-3, 0-3 Ivy).

The Dartmouth defense took center stage in denying the Lions from crossing the goal line until the final minute of play as senior Rocco Di Leo had three sacks in the first three quarters and the nation’s leader in interceptions, junior cornerback Isiah Swann, picked off two passes in the fourth quarter. The interceptions not only kept any Columbia hope of staging a comeback at bay, but also gave him seven pickoffs this season to tie the Big Green single-season record.

The offense had its moments as well, utilizing a bit of trickery to punch into the end zone on more than one occasion. Junior wide receiver Drew Estrada scored on an 8-yard reverse to boost the lead to 14-6 early in the third quarter, and senior Drew Hunnicutt, took a reverse and threw a 21-yard scoring strike to sophomore quarterback Derek Kyler on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 15 points.

Kyler, who leads the FCS in completion percentage, finished the game a perfect 9-for-9 passing the ball for a modest 75 yards, throwing for one score and catching another. The Big Green had a season-low 356 yards of offense, but averaged nearly seven yards per play. On the other side of the field, Columbia managed 314 yards, 228 through the air by completing 31-of-43 passes, but suffered three interceptions.

The Lions marched 60 yards in 12 plays before settling for a 32-yard field goal by Chris Alleyne on their first drive. Columbia could have had more, but a 7-yard touchdown toss was negated by a penalty.

Dartmouth was unfazed facing a deficit for just the second time all season, traversing 75 yards in 11 plays — all rushes — capped by a 5-yard trek into the end zone by senior running back Rashaad Cooper. Freshman Connor Davis added the PAT for a 7-3 lead with 3:43 left in the first quarter.

But after picking up five first downs on their opening drive, the Green did not move the chains again for the rest of the half as the Lions defense stopped Dartmouth a yard shy of the sticks on three consecutive possessions.

Allyene cut the difference down to one in the second quarter with his second field goal of the day, this time from 42 yards out with the wind at his back. Late in the half, the Lions threatened to take the lead going into the locker room, but junior safety Ryan Roegge picked off a pass by backup QB Ty Lenhart — just in the game after Josh Bean suffered an injury — at the Big Green 4 with 40 seconds on the clock.

The halftime stats showed Columbia with many statistical advantages outside of the 7-6 score, outgaining Dartmouth, 153-110, while time of possession was in the Lions’ favor by more than six full minutes.

But the Big Green asserted itself when play resumed as Kyler completed a pair of passes on the first two plays to match their total attempts from the first half. Kyler added a 19-yard scramble with a late hit penalty added on to push the ball to the Columbia 8, and Estrada scored on his reverse on the very next play.

Di Leo ended the Lions’ first possession with a fourth-down sack, his third of the game, and Dartmouth quickly marched back into the red zone. Only a fumble at the 7-yard line kept the Green from adding to their lead. It turned out not to matter as the defense stopped Columbia cold, and junior Hunter Hagdorn returned the punt 35 yards to the Lion 21 to conclude the third quarter. Hunnicutt — Dartmouth’s leading receiver this season — turned the tables on the first play of the fourth quarter by tossing a perfect pass to Kyler in the end zone, where the QB made a leaping grab for his second career touchdown, but first receiving.

After Swann collected his first interception at the Big Green 8, Dartmouth gobbled up 92 yards in eight plays with Kyler connecting with junior tight end Connor Rempel for a 16-yard score, Rempel’s team-leading fourth of the year.

Columbia posted its lone touchdown in the waning seconds as Ryan Suitt — who had replaced an injured Lenhart earlier — tossed a 10-yard touchdown to Ryan Young with the two-point conversion falling incomplete.

Cooper led the Big Green running game with 82 yards on just eight carries, while four others had between 30 and 50 yards, averaging at least 4.7 yards per carry. Estrada led the receiving corps with four catches, but Rempel had the most yards with 36 on three grabs.

Four Lions completed at least one pass with Lenhart leading the team with 97 yards on 12-of-14 tosses. Emerson Kabus had a game-high eight receptions, but for just 31 yards while Kaleb Pitts had 83 yards on three catches, including a 48-yard bomb in the fourth quarter.

Di Leo and nickelback Kyran McKinney-Crudden led the Green with seven tackles apiece with Di Leo posting three of the team’s four sacks.

Dartmouth will host Harvard (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) next Saturday for its Homecoming game at 1:30 p.m. The game will be streamed live on ESPN-plus with Tyler Murray and Matt Goldstein in the booth, and fans can also listen locally in the Upper Valley on 94 ESPN Radio (94.3 and 94.5 FM).


Notes: Dartmouth has led at the end of every quarter this season. … The Big Green has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 17 straight games, a new program record. … Swann tied Lloyd Lee, a former NFL player, for the single-season interception record. He is also just two shy of the career record of 13 interceptions held by Lee and Scott Sims. … Di Leo came up one sack shy of the Dartmouth record for sacks in a game, set by George Neos and matched by Anthony Gargiulo. … Roegge’s interception was the first of his career. … The Big Green, which entered the game third in the country in scoring defense, have allowed just 23 points over the first three quarters — and none in the third quarter — all season, and 35 in the fourth quarter with their games out of reach. … The lone incomplete Dartmouth pass came on its final play from scrimmage.

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